Saturday, March 7, 2015

80 in 80: Osos de Muerte

As part of our efforts to preview all 80 teams competing in USQ World Cup 8, the Quidditch Post is chatting with representatives from each team. Today we spoke with Blake Stroncek, coach and captain of the Osos de Muerte.

Photo by Kevin Freeman

Quidditch Post: The Osos de Muerte qualified for their first World Cup. What does that mean to you and the program?
Blake: This has been our goal as a team from day one. Last yearour first year as a teamsaw us go through a lot of growing pains. We barely had enough players to give each position a sub (example: we had three beaters total), and a tournament like the regional championship was simply out of the question. I think we won a total of two official games last year, both in overtime, and we were considered at or near the bottom of the Southwest.

This year, we were blessed to have nearly all of our veterans return, and on top of that we were gifted with maybe the best recruiting year Baylor University has ever seen. Just to be able to field a full roster was a huge step for us, and to gain that World Cup bid and be recognized as one of the top 80 teams in the world is unbelievable. I can't describe how good it feels to be able to keep a team like Oklahoma State University within snitch range the entire game and to see our team go from the bottom of the Southwest to 13th at the regional championship in only one year. This is a huge step for us, and if we can continue building on this success with good recruiting and strong commitment, I truly believe the Osos can solidify themselves as one of the better teams in quidditch's best region. We've come a long way, but we still have a long way to go.

QP: So now that you've qualified, what is the team's goal?
Blake: I'd say our goal is to make it as far as we possibly can at World Cup. Most people are probably banking on us not qualifying for bracket play, but I believe our team can exceed expectations. I'd love it if we could even upset a couple of teams expected to advance, like what Louisiana State University did to the Lost Boys last year. I'm also looking forward to playing some out-of-region teams and seeing how we stack up. Thanks to the regional championship, we know we can compete mid-pack against our own region, but the Southwest is very strong, and I'd be interested to see whether or not we're better than some upper-tier teams in some of the other regions. And, of course, there are still a couple of teams on my list that I'd like to beat before the end of the year. I have no idea if we'll get a shot at them at World Cup, but if we do, I'd like to cross them off of my bucket list.

QP: Any teams in particular you hope to face?
Blake: We've beaten Texas A&M Quidditch this year but still haven't beaten the Silver Phoenix despite playing it three times. We also haven't played Austin Quidditch. I'd love to beat those two, if for no other reason than to call ourselves the best B team in the Southwest. I also wouldn't mind another crack at Oklahoma State after we kept it so close at the regional championship. Aside from the usual Southwest rivals, though, I don't have anyone in particular picked out. Hopefully we play a few we've never played before, too!

QP: How is your team preparing for World Cup?
Blake: We'll be having our usual practices twice a week, plus a few extras here and there. Lately, we've been focusing mostly on fundamentals: passing, catching, positioning, etc. We want to work hard in the months leading up to World Cup, but we also want to keep practices fun. In my experience, a team shows greater and quicker improvement if they honestly enjoy coming to practice every day. I've heard some teams do two-a-day or rigorous workout/diet routines. The Osos will not be doing that. Our philosophy of working hard without sacrificing fun is what has brought us so far in such a short time. We'll be ramping up the intensity a bit, but I wouldn't expect too many huge changes in our overall routine. Maybe our greatest advantage over other teams is the opportunity to scrimmage a world class team, Baylor University, whenever we want. I know that I personally have learned so much from players like David Gilbert and Brittany Ripperger, and I always encourage our players to watch the A team and learn from them. We'll certainly be taking as many pointers as we can get from them the next month and a half.

QP: Can you talk a bit about a few of your teams key players?
Blake: I think our game really starts at the beaters. We have a lot of really solid beaters this year, but the backbone of our beater corps is our returning veterans: Spencer Stratman, Katy Vargas, and myself. The three of us log a lot of minutes for the team, and our strategy relies on us making those key defensive plays and opening up lanes on point whenever the offense isn't quite firing on all cylinders.

Our offense is, of course, led by our keepers. Our captain, Gabe Garcez, and our other keepers, Wes Meier and Texas State University transfer Matt Zakrzewski, really lead the charge and distribute the ball for us. The other two standouts in my mind are Cordell Clark and Olive Jim-Daniels. The two of them are lightning fast and never quit. Olive is one of the feistiest female chasers I've ever seen and scores a lot of points just by picking up rebounds and refusing to go down no matter how many times she gets hit. Cordell, on the other hand, is a flex player who can literally do whatever you need him to do. He is so incredibly versatile. He sees the field and distributes the ball well at chaser, can hold down the fort as a beater, and is our first string seeker when it comes time to finish a game. Probably his best play came when he caught the snitch in overtime to beat Texas A&M at Brooms on the Brazos. All that said, if it sounds like I'm pretty much just naming all of our players, it's because for us it really is so much of a team effort. I could easily give a shoutout to any of our veterans, but since that would be about a half dozen more names, I'll just stick to those few I already mentioned.

QP: How would you describe the team's style of play?
Blake: Our team runs a Baylor defense and an up-tempo offense. We like to start play at the beater position, take bludger control, and build momentum from there. I wouldn't describe us as an overly physical team; we definitely don't play with a tackle first mentality. That said, we aren't afraid to get physical when we have to. We mainly use wrap ups to delay our opponents long enough to get a beater on them rather than outright tackling them, but if a team is really taking it to us physically, we'll respond in kind. Overall, we try to model our play on what we see from our A team but with some of our own flair. One of our female chasers described our play style as "half Baylor, half Osos." I think that's a pretty accurate description.

QP: You've alluded to it a lot, but what effect does it have being associated with one of the best teams in the world?
Blake: I think it really helps define how we play as a team. When you walk out on the pitch with Baylor on your jersey, you know you're expected to play a certain way. No matter who we're playing, we play hard and keep it classy, whether we're up by 100 or down by even more than that. I definitely think our relationship with Baylor has a greater effect on how we view ourselves instead of how other teams view us. For the most part, other teams still see us as the scrubby little B team from Baylor, but rarely do we see anybody get all that intimidated by the mere fact that we're from Waco, Texas. If anything, we get underestimated more often than not, which is totally fine with us. Definitely the biggest effect is the way Baylor boosts our morale at tournaments. Last weekend when we played Wichita State University for our World Cup bid, there were over half a dozen Baylor players on the sidelines cheering us on. There were even a couple of alumni, including "headmaster" Paul Williard. Our two teams are like a family, and it really gives us that extra kick in our game when we know that Baylor is watching. I can't wait for them to see us play at World Cup.

QP: Thanks for your time, Blake; we appreciate it.
Blake: No problem!

No comments:

Post a Comment